Hey Parents – We’re Feeling Your Pain
“And so when I drop her off, how does it work?” “What if she cries and won’t leave my side?” “What if I cry and can’t go back to my car without her?” “How will I know if she’s okay?” “When can I expect to hear from you?” “When will the first pictures of her be posted on-line?” “What if she’s not happy there?” “What if she gets bullied?”
These are the questions I answer all year long…to first time camp parents and even to some veterans. And if you are a mom or dad that has called voicing concerns like the ones above, then you know that I generally have all of the answers to your questions. And I hear the fear and concern in your voices and I try to put myself in your places — you’re entrusting us with your most prized possessions – and as a parent that is a scary leap of faith.
Obviously, however, I’ve never had to actually ASK anyone those kinds of questions. Because, after all, I AM the camp director and I have the answers! And until this year, I never realized what a luxury it is to stand in my camp director shoes.
No…we’re not sending our daughters to another camp! Rather we joined the ranks of many of you — we got a dog. We got a cute little boxer puppy with whom I have fallen deeply in love. Andy brought her home in September, and for days and weeks we all participated in the “Siegel-izing” of Roxy, teaching her to adapt to our family schedule, our family rules and our family lifestyle. She became as much Siegel as any one of us, and we easily forgot what life without poop-bags, squeaky toys and wet doggie kisses was all about.
But then the year went on and we realized that there was this one thing we didn’t actually think through: what we would do with Roxy Siegel when we human Siegels went away on vacation. And what kennel, pet resort, dog trainer, doggie day care could EVER take care of our dear Roxy the way that we do? How would it feel to actually drop off our baby and leave her in the care of others?
After weeks of research and kennel visits and friends’ advice, we chose the “pet resort” that we felt would take the best care of Roxy and the one where she would be most comfortable (sound familiar??). I made the reservation, consulted with my veterinarian and prepared myself for the emotional anguish that would follow dropping Roxy off for five days. I swear I never realized how hard it would be.
The days leading up to the drop-off I felt bad every time I looked at her. How would she survive without us? How would she make it for five days without our hugs and love and constant kisses? How would she poop in front of other dogs? How would the other dogs treat her? What if she got into a fight? What if she wouldn’t eat?
Finally D-Day arrived. I was antsy, irritable and just not myself and I momentarily wished that we could cancel our vacation. I packed up the pillow she sleeps on and the ONE toy I was permitted to bring for her, and then clipped on her leash. Roxy happily jumped into the car with me — which made me feel even guiltier. She thought we were just going for a ride — her favorite thing to do. Little did she know I was about to leave her in the hands of a bunch of strangers with 30 other barking counterparts.
I stuffed her with treat after treat as we made our way to Camp Bow Wow.
When we pulled into the parking lot I was choked up and had tears in my eyes. I cajoled her out of the car and she kept jumping at the pillow I carried under my arm. She must have been really confused. But she started to get the picture when one of the staff members came around and started mushy-talking to her. She definitely started to freak out when I handed her leash to the trainer and he simply walked her through the door from reception to the doggie part of the kennel. My heart was absolutely breaking. No vacation was worth this. I tried to peek through the window of the door but she was already gone. Just like that.
I cried silent tears the entire drive home and tried to get excited for our trip. I went right onto the “Camp Bow Wow” app and started looking for images of her in their live video feed. By the time we got to the airport for our flight, I was composed and able to look away from the videos long enough to go through the security lines. And by the time we arrived at our destination, I was even able to crack a smile. Our vacation was amazing, but I did come to the realization that vacations will never be the same again. Leaving the sixth Siegel at home means leaving a little piece of our hearts at home, too.
So why am I sharing with you this very personal story? Well…as crazy as it sounds, I now have a better understanding of how you moms and dads feel as Opening Day approaches. I now have a clearer sense of how it feels to leave your loved ones in the hands of “strangers”. I now get why your hearts hurt when drop your campers off at the bus stop, and how frustrating it must be when you don’t see daily pictures of your campers on-line. I don’t want you to think for one second that I’m comparing my dog to your children, but I do want you to know that I finally can kind of put myself in your shoes.
Call me crazy…but getting a dog might just make me a better camp director.
By the way, in case you are wondering…YES, Roxy will be at camp, but not to worry for those of you with children who are not dog lovers. We have built a fenced in play area for her on the side of our house where she’ll be safely enjoying the sights and sounds of camp without interrupting your kids’ favorite home away from home.